I found this in a draft folder today. It was a short piece I wrote a few years ago, when I used to work at a pet store that I loathed. I think my emotional state is pretty evident from my writing style. Re-reading it now fills my tummy with fire, and makes my cheeks ache with phantom pain from my Retail Smile. I remember calling my Mom and telling her this story, and her telling me that I was being an unreasonable idiot, and I needed to choose my battles. You can decide.
There is an old man that has the same ritual every morning at the mall. He sits at the same table in the food court, drinks a coffee and has a bagel. This particular gentleman sticks out to me, because he’s always sporting a different sassy t-shirt. I should be clear; I despise sassy tees. They’re obnoxious, rarely make sense, and make you look like you have a real chip on your shoulder.
We’ve had numerous interactions; mostly when he pairs his saucy tops with a tattoo sleeve undershirt, pushes his way through customers to grab my arm, shake it, and scream, “Twins!”
His shirts are pretty standard; “Fart Machine”, and “Trouser mouse likes to hang out near the basshole” (there was a picture of a mouse in a fishing boat with a safari hat, fishing; I can’t even begin to understand what the implication is.) Then there’s “FBI: Female Body Inspector”, the predatorial “Blink If You Want Me”, “Keep Calm I’m A Fisherman”, and “Save The Earth- It’s The Only Planet With Coffee”.
One t-shirt though. One t-shirt stopped me dead in my tracks the other day. It was so vile, so chilling, I immediately walked away from the customer I was helping to write this down. Allow me to set the scene.
You hang up the phone from a personal phone call, look up, and you see a senior staring at you. He is unblinking, with a frozen, glacial smile, and is wearing a grey t-shirt that says, “Lost: Dog and Sister. Reward for dog.”
To me, this is a blatant confession. He murdered his sister. This “joke” is so wildly unacceptable, even if I saw it on a cheeky five year old boy, I’d think he was a brat and I’d feel confident that I’d see his mother in Hell. I felt like that guy from The Mentalist, or a judgey Nancy Drew.
Since I acted against my impulse to perform a citizen’s arrest, I can only assume that inevitably justice will be served. So until then, I will instinctively look through the faces in the crowd, for a flashy, fossilized pensioner, eating an everything bagel, hoping that a long sleeved tattoo print undershirt is concealed by a court ordered black and white striped jumpsuit.